NORD city-wide baseball clinic, May 29, 1948, attended by more than 2000 kids, who received instruction from members of the New Orleans Pelicans and the Memphis Chicks. After the clinic, the participants were invited to stay on to watch the game between the Pels and the Chicks.
"The Department of Recreation of the City of New Orleans, was created by City Ordinance No. 16,630 by the Commission Council on September 27, 1946, to become effective January 1, 1947."
          -- Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947

Pelican Stadium, June 28, 1947. NORD’s first baseball clinic for African American boys. The 140 participants were coached by members of the New Orleans Creoles of the Negro Southern Baseball League. “The beginning of the clinic,” the Louisiana Weekly noted in its coverage of the event, ”is looked upon by many observers, as a great move to prepare Negro boys for the opportunity that awaits them in the field of professional baseball. The recent advent of Jackie Robinson into big time baseball has spurred the spirit of thousands of Negro youth all over the country to take to the spikes and prepare themselves for baseball fame.” Following the clinic, the Creoles played an aggregation of all-stars picked from local teams throughout the state. The Creoles put a whipping on the All-Stars, 14-3.
"Following the impressive move by the City Recreation Department last week in appointing four Negro life guards to supervise swimming at the Lafon swimming pool, the department made another move towards improving recreation for Negro youth when it announced that the first baseball clinic ever to be conducted for Negroes would take place at Pelican Park. The clinic, which has been approved by Mr. Allen Page, president of the Negro Southern Baseball League, will take place as a preliminary attraction just before the New Orleans Creoles play an all-star aggregation picked from local teams throughout the state."
          -- Louisiana Weekly, June 28, 1947
Safe at home! NORD introduced organized baseball on African American playgrounds for the first time in 1947, fielding 48 teams with 480 participants playing 80 games.
"PLAY BALL – the traditional call which initiates major league baseball play each April isn’t heard in New Orleans until early June, but then five thousand eager youngsters sing it out in chorus and the roar is heard in every neighborhood in the city. For June means school is out and ‘Junior’ and his pals from down the block begin a daily trek to the neighborhood playgrounds and parks for the NORD Kid Baseball games."
          -- New Orleans Recreation Department Progress Report, 1947 through 1951
Moon Landrieu, New Orleans Pelican Manager Jimmy Brown, and Larry Lassalle at NORD’s city-wide baseball clinic, Pelican Stadium. A photograph very similar to this one appeared in the Times-Picayune on May 30, 1948, labeled “NORD ‘Graduates’ at Clinic.” Long before he was Mayor of New Orleans, Moon Landrieu was a star pitcher in the recreation program and for Jesuit High School. Larry Lasalle played for S. J. Peters and later spent five seasons with various minor league clubs. Both were on the Times-Picayune’s All-Prep Team in 1948.

Fire Chief Howard Dey receives a trophy from Ruth Blust, Miss New Orleans of 1947, after the firemen’s team defeated the police department’s team 9-2 in the city employees softball league championship game played at Taylor Playground on July 31, 1947. The two other men looking on are “Dunk” Beter of NORD (left) and Commissioner of Public Safety Bernard McCloskey.
"Kid baseball in New Orleans has come a long way since I played sandlot ball here in the ‘20’s. The recreation department is doing a terrific job."
          -- Mel Ott, New Orleans Recreation Department Progress Report, 1947 through 1951
The Summer Prep League was for high school baseball players too old for American Legion competition. Eight teams participated in 1948: St. Aloysius, S.J. Peters, Holy Cross, Redemptorist, Warren Easton, Nicholls, Catholic High of Baton Rouge, and (shown here) Fortier.
Lafon Playground pool at the start of a city-wide swimming meet on July 19, 1947. One hundred and two kids participated. Three additional pools opened up for African Americans in 1947: Shakspeare, Landry, and Hardin. At the opening ceremony of the Hardin pool, Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison said, “If one life is saved here through a child learning to swim, then the pool will have been paid for.”
"The year 1947 had one of the most successful swimming programs in the history of our city. Everywhere, interest seemed to be revived in this very beneficial form of athletics."
          -- Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947
American Red Cross safety services director, William Green, demonstrates one of the activities that junior lifeguards were taught to prevent – ducking! (Aw, that’s no fun!)

Lifeguards and swimming instructors were appointed by NORD in 1947 to work at the pool in the Lafon Playground. The two instructors were Joseph J. Beslin II and Robert P. Meteye (pictured here giving a swimming lesson to Clinton Coleman). The lifeguards were Simon Rogers Jr. and Arthur Milbon. The four men were among the first African American water safety instructors in the state.
"The 1947 recreation program for the youth of New Orleans was the most outstanding in the entire history of the city. This was particularly true of Negro children who have long suffered from the lack of adequate recreation facilities."
          -- Morris Jeff, Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947
Female swimming instructors were hired to work with the girls since it was against NORD’s policy for girls to swim with boys.
"Hardin Playgrounds [New Orleans and Law Streets] is one of the finest colored recreational centers of this section. There is a fine shelter house here, a small children’s play area, and it boasts an active arts and craft and music program. During the month of December the flood light system was turned on. Needless to say, attendance has increased daily, demonstrating the urgent demand for a lighted playground for the colored people of this section. Hardin Playgrounds occupies 2½ acres of ground, is well graded and in the near future it will have a modern swimming pool and shelter house."
          -- Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947
Swimming lessons at the Stallings Playground pool. For a number of summers, the American Red Cross sponsored “Every Child a Swimmer,” a swimming and water safety program held at pools city-wide, with NORD lifeguards as instructors. The 1947 NORD Annual Report noted that 3154 children received medals for completing the program.
Football game , Lincoln Playground. The playground was located near the intersection of Broad and Calliope Streets, the buildings in the rear are part of the Calliope (later renamed B.W. Cooper) housing development. In 1950, NORD dedicated the new Rosenwald Center, the city’s only recreation center for African Americans (there were ten for the white community), at the Lincoln Playground site.
"Recreation for negroes in New Orleans has grown greatly from nothing in five short years, but development plans are far from terminated. NORD hopes to expand the Colored Division notably within the next few years, keeping this important leg of a growing Department strong and vigorous."
          -- New Orleans Recreation Department Progress Report, 1947 through 1951

NORD Bantam football exhibition at Tulane Stadium, 1947. Two exhibition games were played at the beginning of the Bantam season in 1947 – one before the Tulane-Auburn game on October 25 and a second before the Tulane-Florida game on November 15. Regular games during the season were played at the “Recreation Stadium” (later named Harrell Stadium) at the corner of South Claiborne and Leonidas and at City Park Stadium.
“This is going to be a big week-end for the bantam football league, that is sponsored by the department of recreation. New Orleans can justly feel proud of its kid football teams. The department of recreation has organized two six-team leagues. Both in the 100-pound class and the 125-pound class. Teams are furnished with competent coaches and all necessary equipment.”
          -- Times-Picayune, October 25, 1947
Bantam football practice, 1947. The Bantam league was open to boys under age 15 and under 125 pounds. The city fielded six teams in each weight class. In 1947, the city champions were the Desmare Jackets (100 lbs.) and St. Roch Rockets (125 lbs). NORD (including the Negro Division, which did not have a Bantam program in 1947) also sponsored a much larger touch football program, conducted on each playground and on the playgrounds of the public schools associated with NORD.
"The New Orleans Recreation Department has acquired a national reputation on the green turf of its neighborhood football fields. There pint size prospects, with burning ambition to someday play collegiate football, receive their first lessons in the popular autumn sport and from those fields the youngsters have carried NORD’s colors into distant states where today people use superlatives to describe their gridiron talents."
          -- New Orleans Recreation Department Progress Report, 1947 through 1951
The Toy Bowl game originated in Birmingham in 1946 as a fundraising event. The game pitted the champions of Birmingham’s Bantam football league (in two weight categories – the “Fleas,” weighing not more than 90 pounds, and the “Flies,” not more than 105 pounds) against the Bantam champions from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. In 1947, Birmingham issued the invitation to New Orleans, and NORD enthusiastically took up the challenge. The New Orleans Bantam All Stars travelled to Birmingham on December 12, aboard a special Toy Bowl train, along with Mayor Morrison, the 100-piece NORD band, and scores of fans. Unfortunately, the New Orleans team lost, 13-7. Shown here are the New Orleans Flies – the bigger boys.
"Perhaps no single event in the history of southern athletics for juveniles attracted more national attention than the Toy Bowl Football Game played in Birmingham, Alabama."
          -- Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947
Dignitaries at the Toy Bowl in Birmingham, December 13, 1947: The two men on either end are unidentified, but in the middle, from left, are the Mayor of Birmingham, Cooper Green; the Bishop of Mobile, Bishop Thomas J. Toolen; and Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison of New Orleans. The 1947 NORD Annual Report says: “Perhaps no single event in the history of southern athletics for juveniles attracted more national attention than the Toy Bowl Football Game played in Birmingham, Alabama.”
Basketball clinic for New Orleans Recreation Department workers and supervisors, conducted by the Department of Physical Education at Newcomb College, January 22, 1948. The clinic was led by Mae Watz, a physical education instructor at Newcomb, in cooperation with Marguerite Vienne, assistant in charge of girls’ activities for NORD.

Basketball action at Westside Gym. This photo was reproduced in the First Annual Report of the Department of Recreation, 1947, along with the year’s basketball statistics. That first year, there were 210 teams made up of 2110 boys and girls ranging in age from 8 to 21. Teams were grouped by size (59”, 63”, and unlimited). In 1947, the Westside Gym 59” boys’ team captured the Algiers district championship, qualifying them to advance in the citywide tournament.
Behrman Stadium on the West Bank, 1947. We don’t know the particulars, but it’s obviously one of a number of track and field events held that year. The photo was published in the 1947 NORD Annual Report with the caption “59-inch girls breaking the tape at Behrman Stadium. Public and Parochial schools join the competition.” According to the report, 9489 kids participated in track events in that year.
"The new Department of Recreation received its first national publicity during the meeting of the Association of Sportswriters and Broadcasters of America. The group met in New Orleans during the month of May, 1947. . . . It is needless to say that the visitors were impressed with the progress being made in New Orleans at that time."
          -- Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947
Although this track event is unidentified, it is possible that the photograph was taken in June, 1947, when sports writers from around the country were invited to the city to see the “inspirational” recreation program blossoming in New Orleans. The visit, however, pointed up the fact that adequate facilities and equipment had not yet been provided to African American youth. During the sportswriters’ visit, NORD’s Negro Division attempted to organize the first city-wide track meet for black kids held in 15 years. But when the Xavier University stadium – the previous site for past meets for black youth – became unavailable at the last minute, the meet was hurriedly moved to the Olivia Evans Playground, where (in the words of the Louisiana Weekly), “ a sorry make-shift meet was held.” The Louisiana Weekly noted that none of the sports writers in town showed up. The kids from the Evans program won the match.

Girls competing in a track event at Lincoln Playground. We’re not positive about the date, but we know that a meet was held there on August 8, 1947 and that Lincoln hosted a city-wide meet for elementary kids on May 15, 1948. At the 1948 event, the girls from the F. P. Ricard School Playground crushed their competition.
"The Recreation Department has made an earnest and fruitful endeavor since 1947 to bring adequate recreational facilities to the negro population of New Orleans. Headed by Morris F.X. Jeff, the Negro Division has activities to match any events in the other NORD Divisions. The youngsters who were without play areas for so long now can enjoy the same games and programs that are offered in the other sections of the Department."
          -- New Orleans Recreation Department Progress Report, 1947 through 1951

A high jumper competes at Loyola Stadium in the NORD Uptown Elementary School track and field meet, April 10, 1948. NORD held similar meets in each section of the city in the spring. At this meet, the St. Stephen’s School boys defeated the boys from Live Oak School. In the girls’ division, Jackson Elementary came out on top of the Merrick and LaSalle teams. More than 700 kids participated.
Tennis coach Emmett Paré of Tulane explaining the finer points of the game at a NORD clinic. In 1947, NORD held clinics each Saturday at City Park and in late June conducted a week-long tennis tournament – the “New Orleans Junior Open City Championships” – for participants. Some 2100 kids took part in the clinics, and 72 entered the tournament.

Saturday tennis clinic conducted by NORD instructor Clay McGrath.

Fishing clinics for both adults and kids were held at City Park, with NORD providing equipment and instructors.
"There is no better investment any community can make than in the health and character development of its children. We are making this investment and we know it will pay great dividends."
          -- deLesseps S. Morrison, Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947
NORD golf chairman Henry Thomas coaches young golfers in the proper way to address a sand trap shot. Mr. Thomas, aka “Mr. Golf” to most New Orleans golfers, single handedly introduced generations of New Orleanians to the sport, and was one of the driving forces behind making the city a PGA tour stop. In 1977 he was inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of fame.

Bowling awards party in full swing, held at the Parisian Room, August 2, 1947, where Commissioner Bernard J. McCloskey, representing Mayor Morrison, handed out trophies to the tournament winners of the 1947 NORD bowling program. The Mayor donated the ice cream and soft drinks (including the bottles of Dr. Nut shown on several tables).

Archery tournament finals, Desmare Playground, 1947.
The first NORD Play Day, City Park Stadium, August 5, 1947. In addition to the checkers matches pictured here, kids were invited to sign up for events described in the June 27 Times-Picayune as “potato and heel grasp races, 50-yard dashes, over and under, skip rope relays, dodge ball, bean-bag circle games, and almost any other game played by kids everywhere.” The youngsters traveled to City Park via special buses, streetcars and trucks. Mayor Morrison provided ice cream, cake, and soft drinks and, according to the August 6 Picayune account, 10,000 scoops of ice cream were consumed.

A Scene from "Colored Play Day," Macarty School Playground, July, 1947. More than 600 kids from playgrounds around the city played basketball, softball, jacks, dodge ball, tennis, paddle tennis, badminton, horse shoes, checkers, ping pong, shuffle board, hopscotch, high jump, and broad jump. The closing event was a softball game: the Macarty team defeated an all-star team of players from all of the participating playgrounds. Afterwards, the kids enjoyed ice-cream, cake, and soft drinks donated by Mayor Morrison.
"Under the supervision of Morris F. X. Jeff, the summer recreation program for Negroes in New Orleans, which came to a close last month, broke all attendance and participation records. . . . Commenting on the summer recreational program, Mr. Jeff said: 'This has been a very happy experience for me, for I know it made many youths and their parents happy. Recreation is one of the forces that can help to reduce juvenile delinquency in our community. If vigorous young people are not given a wholesome medium for expending their energies they often turn these energies into unwholesome channels.'"
          -- Louisiana Weekly, September 13, 1947

Tug of war! This photo ran in the July 9, 1944 edition of the Times-Picayune, pre-dating the 1947 establishment of NORD. But such sights of boys engaged in this timeless game undoubtedly took place every summer at most playgrounds across New Orleans. The Picayune’s caption reads, “Ya gotta have pull to get into this game!”

Girls' games in the “Miscellaneous Sports” division of NORD. Other activities included jump rope, jacks, ping pong, ring tennis, paddle tennis, relays, checkers, shuffleboard, and archery – but no tug of war for little ladies!

Horseshoes, Magnolia Project playground. In its first year, 1947, NORD sent playground directors and equipment to all of the public housing developments (except Iberville, which had no space).

Ping pong game under the trees, Reynes Homes. The Reynes development, at 4400 Reynes St. in Holy Cross, was home to African American employees of war industries in the New Orleans area.
      "Recreation programs pay rich dividends in the laughter and bright spirit of our children. It will keep them off the streets, and concentrated on playgrounds where they will receive wholesome guidance from trained youth leaders.
      It is our firm conviction that all children shall be enabled to develop into healthier and happier citizens through energetic and intelligent action of this kind by their city government."
          -- deLesseps S. Morrison, New Orleans Recreation Department Progress Report, 1947 through 1951
Reynes Homes playground, 1947.

Swings and jungle gyms at . . . where? NORD identified this photograph as the Lincoln Playground. If that’s the case, the buildings in the background are part of the Calliope Housing Development (later B.W. Cooper). But HANO’s 1947 Annual Report includes this exact photograph, with a caption that reads “Playground – St. Bernard Project.” So we’re stumped. If you can solve the puzzle, let the Louisiana Division know.

City-wide marbles tournament, sponsored by NORD In April and May, 1947, culminating in a “shoot out” at Pelican Stadium on May 7. The finalists from the preliminary playoffs at schools, recreation centers and playgrounds from each age group competed at home plate in the Stadium.
Arts and crafts program at the Dorgenois Center. NORD’s arts and crafts program operated year round at playgrounds and centers, focusing on three general phases of activity: general arts and crafts projects, special event projects (e.g., costumes for NORD plays, place cards for a baseball banquet) and seasonal event projects (Mother’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, etc.).
The New Orleans Public Library has located one of its branches in the [Dorgenois] Center to serve young people with a varied selection of literature.
          -- Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947
Arts and crafts class at St. Roch Playground.
NORD wasn't only about sports. The 1947 Annual Report says: “We are told that an athletic program will, normally, attract 70% participation and interest in a recreation program.” To pull in the other 30% (and whatever portion of the 70% who might be inclined toward dual participation), NORD developed programs in arts and crafts, drama, music, and dance. In early 1948, NORD added square dancing to its list of cultural activities. This appears to be a square dancing class held at one of the NORD centers.

NORD Traveling Theater at Coliseum Playground, July 23, 1947. The performance may have been a one-act play called The Telegram (author unknown), which NORD produced that summer. The original NORD Traveling Theater, which debuted in 1947, was built on the chassis of an old garbage wagon (the kind pulled by mules!) and featured a complete 12’ x 16’ stage, curtain, interior sets, and a public address system. The theater, with casts made up of playground children, visited playgrounds and NORD centers around the city. In 1949, the city turned over a converted bus for use as the theater.
"The Department has embraced all types of activity and has attempted to make available a varied program that would appeal to all children. Special emphasis has been placed on the development of a good sound cultural program to go along with its already established fine athletic program."
          -- Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947
Ida Weis Friend speaks from the stage of the NORD Traveling Theater at the April 28, 1948 dedication of new lights at the Bunny Friend Playground in the upper 9th Ward. Mrs. Friend was a civic and social leader in New Orleans, who was awarded (among other honors) the Times-Picayune Loving Cup in 1946. When her 18-year-old son, Henry (“Bunny”), died of pneumonia in 1924, she donated funding for the purchase of a playground in his memory, along with money for its initial maintenance. Once the lights went on that night, on-lookers watched an Irish musical revue by NORD’s Traveling Theater troupe and a softball game between the playground team and the Sauro Stars. Mayor Morrison threw out the first pitch.

The NORD "Choristers" formed in December, 1947. Mr. Jeff noted in the 1947 NORD Annual Report that they were “prepared to furnish singing at various programs.” Plans for a band were also on the slate for 1948.
Pet Show, Lincoln Playground. Most likely, the kids – and the pets! – were residents of the Calliope housing development, pictured in the background. The 1947 Annual Report of the Recreation Department describes Lincoln Playground as “another scene of real Negro recreational activity. Its facilities include: shelter house, basketball courts, softball diamond, children’s play equipment and jumping pits.”

A pet Pony! Wonder if this young man won the prize for the largest pet?
"If our program is indeed the best in the Nation as we have been told, it is a tribute to the talented, conscientious men and women all through the ranks of the recreation department who have made this achievement possible, and to the public spirited citizens who have given freely of their time, energy and support."
          -- deLesseps S. Morrison, Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947
Easter baskets distributed by members of the Southern Allied Civic Association. This organization worked to secure recreational facilities for African American children in the city. Distributing the baskets are: Miss Olivia Evans, local school teacher and co-founder of the organization; Peter W. Clark, writer; Morris F. X. Jeff, instructor at Booker T. Washington School, and Mrs. R.L. Johnson, executive of the Good Citizens Life Insurance Company.

Olivia Evans Playground, Soniat and Liberty Streets. Children and adults relax after having received their Easter treats. As the first playground for African American children to be equipped with floodlights, it served as the softball league center.
"When the hurricane of September 9, 1947 struck the City of New Orleans and this section, the playground system suffered a considerable amount in property damage. . . . Several hours before the disaster struck, our personnel was alerted. Recreation centers were made available for refugees. At the Martin Behrman Memorial, approximately 1,000 refugees from the bayou country found a safe haven. They were housed and fed at the Memorial, under the direction of our staff."
          -- Department of Recreation City of New Orleans, First Annual Report, 1947
Recreational workers at a business session in 1947. The man in the suit in the center row is Morris F.X. Jeff, Sr., the head of NORD’s “Negro Division.” Mr. Jeff was then at the very beginning of a career with NORD that would last until his retirement in 1986. He also worked many years with the New Orleans Public Schools, first as a P.E. teacher at McDonogh 35, later as a coach and teacher at Booker T. Washington High School, and finally as the school system's physical education consultant. Long a respected community leader, Mr. Jeff also reigned as King Zulu in 1974. A New Orleans public school and the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium are named in his honor. He died in 1993.